A History Of Violent Protests At The National Conventions

We’re here at YouTube Studios at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio! The recent violence breaking out at political rallies in the 2016 Presidential Race, has many expecting protests and even riots at the RNC and DNC Although most conventions are relatively straightforward; this year’s highly charged political climate may echo that of earlier unrest in the US’s political history

So, are National Conventions prone to violence? Well, the most infamous occurrence was during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois In the lead up to the event, civil rights activism was at its peak, and just months earlier, both Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy were assassinated  The highly unpopular Vietnam War was still ongoing, and thousands of activists and protesters filled Chicago both to voice their displeasure, and to attend an anti-war music festival Roughly 10,000 demonstrators were attacked by more than twice the number of law enforcement agents, who tear gassed and beat hundreds of protesters, which some say led to the infamous Chicago riots

Even delegates and journalists for the convention were beaten and arrested by police inside the convention hall Since then, convention sites have attempted to avoid any possibility of similar riots, especially in times of high political tension During the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, roughly 420 protesters were arrested, and some detained for more than two weeks while facing felony charges, which were dropped for 95% of those arrested Somewhat similarly, in the lead up to the 2004 RNC and DNC, many sources reported activists being intimidated and questioned by the FBI about potential violent or disruptive protests, and some groups reported harassment by federal agents This was seen as an effort to scare people from protesting, although a report from the Office of the Inspector General found that the FBI’s tactics were in response to 17 threats of violence, including several potential bombings

And while little to no violence occurred in 2004, protesters continued to be targeted towards the following, 2008 election That year, an anti-establishment protest group called “The RNC Welcoming Committee”, was infiltrated by multiple undercover officers and informants In the days before the convention, eight activists were arrested on charges of terrorism and held during the convention Afterwards, the terrorism charges were dropped, and some accepted plea deals for “conspiracy to commit riot” and “criminal damage to property”, while the rest had their charges dismissed Notably, two individuals who were arrested following the convention were allegedly encouraged to build Molotov cocktails and use violence by the very informant who turned them in, leading some to claim the situation was classic entrapment

While there hasn’t been serious violence comparable to the 1968 riots, that may have more to do with law enforcement being proactive about arrests and disrupting potential disruptions Even today, there have been reports of FBI agents visiting known activists in Cleveland before the Republican National Convention, which some say is intended to intimidate them from protesting Additionally, protestors have to apply for permits to protest, in order to lessen the chances of spontaneous protests that can go out of control However, these actions have been seen as serious overreach, and do little to quell the high tensions at these conventions

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